20-Year-Old Man Dies in Sleep During First Shift as a Firefighter: 'A Friend to All'
A Georgia community is mourning the loss of a 20-year-old man who was found unresponsive on Saturday morning while working his first shift as a firefighter.
On Sunday, the St. Marys Fire Department announced the death of Efren Medina, who had recently joined the department as part of his longtime dream of becoming a firefighter.
"On Saturday morning, April 17, 2021, St. Marys Fire Department Firefighter Efren Medina passed away while on duty," they wrote in a Facebook post. "Firefighter Medina was a newly hired firefighter and working his first shift. He was known for his long-time passion for firefighting and his love of the fire service."
"We greatly appreciate the outpouring of sympathy, support and condolences during this very difficult time," they continued, in part.
Chief Tom Lackner told WLTV that Medina had recently passed physical and agility tests before joining the department. They are awaiting the medical examiner's report to determine Medina's cause of death.
Lackner said Medina had responded to an overnight call and returned to the firehouse at 3:30 a.m. After the rest of the team began waking up hours later, they noticed Medina wasn't responsive.
"A 20-year-old shouldn't be going," Lackner told the news station of Medina's death. "You never think that somebody 20 years old isn't going to wake up from their sleep."
A friend of Medina's started a GoFundMe campaign to help the family with funeral costs.
"He was very caring, cheerful, and hardworking," a description on the page reads. "Efren was dedicated to working towards becoming a fireman and selflessly helping others also being an EMT."
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The page — which has raised $8,145 so far — says Medina leaves behind a wife, Brittany Vasquez.
"Efren was a wonderful brother, son, husband, and friend to all," the page said of Medina.
Memorial services are planned Thursday afternoon at Allison Memorial Chapel in St. Marys.